The Kerala Blasters assistant head coach spoke on the importance of moving forward in the league.

After starting the season poorly, Kerala Blasters are currently on a four-match unbeaten run in the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL). On Wednesday, they will face Jamshedpur FC once again. However, prior to the contest, they were dealt a big blow by the suspension of head coach Kibu Vicuna. As a result, Ishfaq Ahmed, the assistant coach represented the side along with goalkeeper Albino Gomes at the pre-match press conference on Monday. He spoke on what can be expected from them in the upcoming contest.

The referee had shown Vicuna his second yellow card of the season against FC Goa, as a result of which he cannot feature on the sidelines against Jamshedpur. When asked about leading the side in his absence, Ishfaq Ahmed said, “It’s not a good sign to lose the head of the team for the next match. But, I think he’ll be there for us. It’s just those 90 minutes that we’ll have to see out without him.”

Draw against FC Goa

Ahmed admitted that Kerala Blasters had plenty of chances to win and take home the three points against FC Goa on Saturday. “We had clear-cut chances in the game against FC Goa. Rather than saving a point, it was more like two points lost. We needed the three points more than playing attractive football,” he said. Gary Hooper had squandered one of the team’s easiest chances to take the lead and close out the game.

“I don’t think he’s lacking confidence. He’s playing No. 10 now, and is making a difference by creating more chances. He played for the team against Goa and tried to pass the ball to a player who he felt was at a better position,” Ishfaq Ahmed explained.

Injury and suspension woes

Apart from Vicuna, Kerala Blasters will also miss the services of Rahul KP and Jeakson Singh, who both got booked for the fourth time this season against the Gaurs. “Well, we know we don’t have some of the players, but some will be coming back from injuries and we also have good depth in our squad,” the assistant coach commented.

Players like Jordan Murray, Costa Nhamoinesu and Nishu Kumar are among those who are expected to return from injuries. Speaking about Murray and his injury layoff, he said that others have done well in his absence. “The settled team missed one of its key players (in the last two matches). But, I think there are players who are responding well. You can’t avoid injuries – they are a part of football,” added Ishfaq Ahmed.

WATCH: Ishfaq Ahmed and Albino Gomes speak at the pre-match press conference

Albino Gomes on saving penalties

The 37-year-old also had kind words to say about Albino Gomes, the team’s goalkeeper. The former Delhi Dynamos and Odisha FC star has been one of the standout performers for the Yellow Army this season, saving three penalties.

“We realize that we didn’t have the best of starts. We’ve been playing better football now. It’s a goal that we’re trying to keep more clean-sheets and Albino is up there doing his job,” Ahmed said. Gomes himself was present at the media interaction and he said that penalties depend on the player who attempts them.

“I gained confidence by playing and training hard. It has been a good season that I’d like to continue. I haven’t really worked hard on penalties. It depends on the player that comes to take it and the pressure is on him. As a goalkeeper, it is up to you to get it right and if you do not, it’s over,” he said. The 26-year-old also lavished praise on his teammates, as he commented, “Whoever comes to our team, they give their best. All the players are determined to play and there’s no lack of confidence in the squad.”

National team ambitions

The shot-stopper also spoke on his national team ambitions. “Of course, I want to break through and it’s the dream that every player carries. Right now, I’m focusing on ISL only, but it’d be great to get a call-up,” he revealed. This also led Ishfaq Ahmed to point out the fact that Kerala Blasters are one of the few clubs who play with an Indian striker.

“We’re one of the teams that have been playing with an Indian striker. I think Rahul is a great prospect for the senior national team. A club has different ambitions than a national team. I feel Albino also is up there and has the attributes to make it to the national team. Whoever performs deserves to get the call-up,” he signed off.

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